Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Our Inner Universes

Reality is constructed by the brain, and no two brains are alike

Anil Seth discusses themes relating to his exploration of consciousness and the perception of ‘reality’ in this feature article: Our Inner Universes in Scientific American for their September theme issue on 'Truth, Lies, and Uncertainty'.

This article discusses some of the big philosophical and neuroscientific questions relating to consciousness, such as how can we perceive something as being ‘real’ when our perception of reality is not a direct reflection of the external objective world?

                                            “Perception is never a direct window onto an objective reality”

The article goes on to review current evidence surrounding the origins of perception, which points to our perception of the world being a product of the brain’s predictions about the causes of incoming sensory signals.


hovering boat


                                “When we agree about our hallucinations, maybe that is what we call reality”

Prof. Seth concludes that the property of realness that accompanies our perceptions may serve to guide our behaviour so that we respond appropriately to the sources of sensory signals.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Prof Seth, his 2017 TED Talk or the Vice/Motherboard feature documentary The Most Unknown provide a brief summary. A more in-depth discussion of Anil’s ideas about consciousness can be found in the 2018 podcast interview with neuroscientist Sam Harris.